MINNEAPOLIS — Seattle’s late-summer surge has been fueled, naturally, by strong starting pitching.
Even the offense has been perking up.
Dustin Ackley hit a three-run homer, Hisashi Iwakuma was hard to hit and the Mariners beat the stumbling Minnesota Twins 5-2 on Tuesday night.
“Ever since the All-Star break I feel like we’ve been hitting more consistently,” Ackley said. “We’ve had a couple games where we might not have scored as many as we like, but overall I feel like our hitting has been great.”
Iwakuma (5-3) gave up one hit and one unearned run over six innings in another strong start for the rookie from Japan. The right-hander struck out four and helped send the Twins to their 16th defeat in their last 19 games despite four walks, a hit batsman and a wild pitch.
“He did it the hard way,” manager Eric Wedge said. “He was erratic. Didn’t quite have the same command that he normally does, but he didn’t give into it.”
Ackley hit a fastball from Scott Diamond (10-6) into the flower bed above right-center field following consecutive singles by Trayvon Robinson and Brendan Ryan to start the fifth.
“I just left it right in his bat path,” said Diamond, who gave up more than three runs for the first time in seven starts since July 21.
After an RBI double by Ryan Doumit (Moses Lake) off Charlie Furbush, Tom Wilhelmsen got the last out of the ninth inning for his 20th save in 23 attempts.
The Mariners, who began the day nine games behind in the A.L. wild-card race, have won 12 of their last 16. They have won seven straight against the Twins and raised their record to 63-67.
“I think after we had a couple of those winning streaks and started hitting real well I think it was in everybody’s mind,” Ackley said of reaching the .500 mark. “I think the more we won the more we believed that we could do that.”
Iwakuma is 4-1 with a 1.99 ERA in his last eight starts. Mariners starters, buoyed by ace Felix Hernandez, who spun a five-hit shutout Monday, are 19-8 with a 2.74 ERA in the last 37 games. Since the All-Star break they have the second-best ERA in the majors.
“Pitching, I don’t think that’s ever been a problem here,” Ackley said.
But hitting has been. The Mariners remain on pace to finish in the bottom five in the majors in runs scored for a fifth straight season.
Diamond gave up a double to Ryan and walked Franklin Gutierrez with two outs in the third before Kyle Seager’s two-run double put the M’s on the board.
Mariners 5, Twins 2
E—Plouffe (13). LOB—Seattle 6, Minnesota 6. 2B—Seager (26), Ryan 2 (17), Doumit (26). HR—Ackley (10). RBIs—Ackley 3 (46), Seager 2 (75), Revere (27), Doumit (60). SB—T.Robinson 2 (5). SF—Revere. RLISP—Seattle 3, Minnesota 2. RMU—Ackley 2. GIDP—Mastroianni, Mauer. DP—Seattle 2.
|Iwakuma W, 5-3||6||1||1||0||4||4||3.40|
|Wilhelmsen S, 20-23||1/3||0||0||0||1||0||2.64|
|Dmd L, 10-6||7||7||5||5||1||2||96||3.21|
IR-S—Kinney 1-0, Wilhelmsen 1-0. HBP—Willingham. WP—Iwakuma. PB—Olivo. T—2:55. A—29,854 (39,500).